For nearly two and a half years the BBC has managed to avoid producing any serious reporting on the subject of collaboration between Hamas and the ISIS franchise operating in the Sinai Peninsula.
Back in August 2013 the BBC’s Yolande Knell told audiences that:
“Cairo has repeatedly accused Hamas of interfering in Egyptian affairs and has accused Palestinians of supporting Islamist militants in the increasingly restive Sinai region.”
Failing to provide any objective information concerning those Egyptian claims, she then promoted the following statement from Hamas’ Ghazi Hamad:
“They have a plan in order to distort the image of Gaza in order to start propaganda and media campaign against Gaza, against Hamas, in order to show Gaza is like a devil and Hamas is like a devil,” Mr Hamed [sic] said.
“I think they succeeded to do this on the Egyptian street, in the Egyptian society.”
In October 2014 the BBC told its audiences that:
“Egyptian media accuses Gaza’s Hamas administration of aiding militants in Sinai. Hamas denies the charge.”
Since then the topic of collaboration between Hamas and Wilayat Sinai (formerly known as Ansar Bayt al Maqdis) has been the subject of numerous articles and reports from a variety of outlets (see for example here, here, here, here, here and here) but not only has the BBC failed to adequately address the topic in that time, it has even promoted a conflicting narrative.
On March 29th 2016, Yolande Knell produced a filmed report for BBC television news programmes which also appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the headline “Israel on alert for attacks by Islamic State fighters in Sinai“. Notably, the word terror does not appear at any point during Knell’s narration and in the synopsis ISIS terrorists in Sinai are described as “militants” and “extremists”.
Knell’s report begins in Eilat where she takes a trip on an Israeli navy boat and then proceeds to the between Israel and Egypt.
“Recently the so-called Islamic State has made threats. A high state of alert extends along Israel’s 240 kilometer border with the Sinai.” […]
IS fighters have made the Sinai into another Middle East stronghold. Here they’re mostly targeting Egyptian security forces but they’ve also struck at Israel. […]
Israel and Egypt admit little publicly but they’re known to be sharing intelligence. Here there’s a constant threat of surprise attacks by Islamic extremists. What increasingly worries both Israel and Egypt is links between militants in the Sinai and groups in Gaza, which is nearby.”
Knell then goes on to make the following statement, notably failing to remind viewers of Hamas’ designation as a terrorist organisation:
“This month Egypt’s interior minister accused the Palestinian group Hamas, which controls Gaza, of helping Jihadists to kill the Egyptian public prosecutor last year, giving them training in the Sinai.”
Given that until that point the entire report related to ISIS, it is obvious that the uniformed viewer would conclude that Knell’s reference to “Jihadists” also means that same group. However – as the BBC itself reported at the time – Egypt does not attribute the murder of Hisham Barakat to the ISIS affiliated Wilayat Sinai group, but to the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition, the Egyptian interior minister did not claim that the attackers had received training in Sinai, but in the Gaza Strip.
“On March 6, 2016, tensions between Egypt and Hamas increased when Magdi Abdel Ghaffar, Egypt’s minister of the interior, held a press conference where he accused Hamas of involvement in the assassination of Hisham Barakat, the Egyptian attorney general. The assassination, carried out in June 2015, was attributed to operatives of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas vigorously denied the accusations but Egyptian sources have repeatedly claimed that Hamas provides military support for Muslim Brotherhood terrorists, including training them in the Gaza Strip.”
“Palestinians are also alleged to have treated injured IS fighters. I cross into Gaza where Hamas officials strongly deny the claims.”
Viewers then hear once again from Ghazi Hamad.
“We will not allow for anyone from Gaza now to do anything against or to damage or to harm the national security of Egypt and we will not allow for anyone from Sinai to come to use Gaza as a shelter.”
Sharp-eared viewers may have noted Hamad’s use of the future tense and the word “now”. That may well be linked to the fact that a senior Hamas delegation visited Cairo earlier in the month to try to defuse tensions with Egypt. The BBC did not report that visit, so viewers will naturally be unaware of that crucial context to Hamad’s words.
In this report Yolande Knell has once again avoided providing audiences with any serious, objective reporting on the topic of Hamas’ long-standing collaboration with ISIS in Sinai whilst at the same time yet again providing amplification for Hamas’ public relations messaging. She has also misled viewers with regard to the Egyptian allegations concerning Hamas’ collaboration with the Muslim Brotherhood in the murder of an Egyptian official.
So much for the BBC’s claim to be the “standard-setter for international journalism”.